Duke Football: Blue Devils Try To Reboot Season vs. Fast-Improving Terrapins

Mike KlineAnalyst ISeptember 30, 2010

Duke is desperate for a win as it attempts to salvage a season that initally had a lot of promise.
Duke is desperate for a win as it attempts to salvage a season that initally had a lot of promise.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, Maryland football was in complete disarray, while Duke was making strides to becoming bowl eligible and posting its best finish in the ACC in 15 years.

Turn the clock ahead almost a year, and it seems that fortunes have reversed themselves for both programs.

The Terps are off to a strong 3-1 start, while the Blue Devils are 1-3 and mired in a three-game losing streak. Unlike the previous two David Cutcliffe years, the losses haven't all been close, and they didn't all hinge on a play or two bouncing the other way.

In Duke's three losses this season, the Blue Devils have given up more than 40 points and 500 yards per game, easily making its defense not only the worst in the conference but in the FBS.

To make matters worse, the offense, which was so potent the first two weeks, scoring 41 in a win against Elon and 48 in a loss to Wake Forest, has stalled the last two games, averaging less than 20 points.

The Terps, who haven't been particularly dominant on offense, should hope to see that improve against a very young and inexperienced Blue Devil defense that hasn't shown the ability to slow anyone down so far.

If its sputtering offense can't find some solid footing, it could be a long day in College Park for Duke, which is heading toward one of its most difficult stretches of the season.


Keys for Duke

Sean Renfree must get better. As bad as Duke's defense has been, they could at least rely on Renfree hitting his targets and moving the offense.

Against Alabama and Army, Renfree was off, throwing five interceptions as he failed to go through his progression and forced throws into coverage. Combine this with fumbles and dropped passes, and the offense that once was clicking is now broken down.

Despite the improvements in the running game, Duke's offense is still pass first. It is unclear if the efforts to incorporate the running game have stunted the Blue Devils' offensive flow, but they must get back to doing what they do best.

If the Duke offense can start finding the end zone again, then the defense just needs to force one or two turnovers and the Blue Devils can win a shootout.


Keys for Maryland

The Terps have all the advantages going into this game. They are at home, they have a grudge, and they have momentum.

Maryland is riding high with a 3-1 start and hopes to give Duke a little payback from last year's low-scoring affair in a soggy Wallace Wade Stadium.

Maryland will look to run first, but should find some opportunities to open things up through the air against a Duke secondary that has looked shaky all year. If the Terps control the time of possession, they will win this game.

If Duke's offense isn't clicking, they could win this game going away.


Prediction: Maryland 48, Duke 24

Duke might keep this game close early, but with the way their defense and offense have been playing, combined with their poor performance in road conference games over the years, the Terps should pull away for the easy win.